How To Utilize Dual System Audio (On Your Next Shoot)

How To Utilize Dual System Audio (On Your Next Shoot) by Michael Head

While cinematography is the art of painting with light, an equally important (if not more important) aspect of video production is capturing quality audio. This is because  audiences will forgive poor visuals before they will forgive bad audio.

My first dual system audio includes both a Rode Videomic Pro and the Zoom H2n. Together, they make a great audio system that is flexible and an awesome replacement for a camera’s on-camera microphone.

Dual System Audio with Rode Videomic Pro

How To Utilize Dual System Audio

To get set up, you simply run the 3.5mm line from the Rode into the Line In input on the Zoom. Bad-da-bing – excellent stereo sound. You can even get a 3.5mm extension line and separate the H2n from the Rode by almost any distance.

If you add in a Rode Micro Boom Pole, you will have a complete system for booming audio on set.

Check out the video for a quick overview of the dual system audio, including a few points of caution.

The Good:
– Inexpensive Dual System Audio.
– Quality audio from the microphone and recorder.
– Very small system (I’ve put the microphone in the front seat of a car to capture sounds of the person in the driver’s seat while the camera was outside of the car).
– Allows for audio monitoring through headphones out of the H2n.

The Not-So-Good:
– 3.5mm line is unshielded: i.e., it is susceptible to interference from powerlines, the cell phone in the camera man’s pocket, et al…
– Audio needs to be synced in post production.

Final Thougts:
This is a a great, flexible system for capturing dual system audio, especially for beginning filmmakers.

Whoever you choose to run your audio, be sure that they understand the need to have the microphone close to the subject (but out of sight of the camera) and still monitor the sound being recorded. But make sure your audio pro is watching audio levels as well. For example, avoid accidentally lowering your audio input if the headphones sound too loud.

Quality visuals are important, but capturing quality audio is vital to making your videos and films stand out from more amateur work. Setting up dual system audio is one way to add extra value to your project.

How The Rode Videomic Pro Produces Inexpensive Audio

Overview of the Rode Videomic Pro by Filmmaker Michael Head

One of the most often overlooked aspects of video for beginning filmmakers is audio.

To a point, it’s easy to see why many filmmakers often overlook audio – After all, video is a visual art form, isn’t it? Yes, but I will never forget this saying I heard: audio without video is radio; video without audio is nothing.

Even in the era of “silent” films, there was music that conveyed mood, intensity, and other aspects of storytelling in this “visual art form.”

So what is a good way to capture quality audio?

Enter the Rode Videomic Pro. Shotgun microphones are great for collecting focused audio from the direction the microphone is pointed, and the Videomic Pro is an excellent upgrade to the built in microphone found on many cameras.


Rode Videomic Pro

The Rode Videomic Pro is powered by a 9 volt battery which has a very long lifespan – as much as 70 hours of recording time from a single battery.

The microphone has a variety of settings to help record in many situations – on top of the native recording level there is a high-pass filter that helps reduce low-frequency noises like electrical hums in rooms, traffic, and some airplane sounds (but always monitor and re-record, if you need).

There is also selectable level settings such as a -10dB setting for loud environments and a +20dB that especially helps when recording to DSLRs (which tend to have poor audio circuits, even with an external microphone).

The Rode Videomic Pro microphone outputs it’s signal through a 3.5mm jack, which is perfect for most small cameras and can be adapted for XLR inputs.

The Rode Videomic Pro has a standard shoe mount for attaching to a camera, but it also has a 3/8″ thread which allows it to mounted to various items such as boom poles and stands with matching threads.

It is always a good idea to get the microphone as close as possible to the subject, and while having the mic on camera is already a vast improvement over most in-camera mics, it is great to be able to boom the microphone close to the subject (and Rode has a Boom Pole for the Rode Videomic Pro – how convenient!)

The Good:
– High Quality, low cost condenser shotgun Microphone
– Runs on 9 volt batteries (with a long life)
– Adaptable mount (shoe mount and 3/8″ thread)
-Selectable settings (high-pass, +20dB, -10dB)
– Great sound recording!

The Not So Good:
– 3.5mm only, no XLR output (but it is adaptable)
– Very short output line – you’ll need an extender

Final Thoughts:

I have utilized Rode Videomics for years, and the improvement they offer over on-camera mics is absolutely undeniable. Don’t let poor audio ruin a good story – Always capture audio that will enhance, not distract, from your film.

Next time, we’ll look at how to use the Rode Videomic Pro and the Zoom H2n (reviewed last week) to capture great dual-system sound (and a few pitfalls to watch out for). Until then – keep shooting!